Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Quiver by Holly Luhning

QuiverQuiver by Holly Luhning
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


“In sixteenth-century Hungary, Countess Elizabeth Báthory tortured and killed over six hundred servant girls in order to bathe in their blood; she believed this brutal ritual would preserve her youth and beauty. Danica, a young forensic psychologist, is drawn to Báthory’s legend. She has moved from Canada to England to work at Stowmoor, a Victorian insane asylum turned modern-day forensic hospital. One of her patients, the notorious Martin Foster, murdered a fourteen-year-old girl in homage to Báthory. He cultivates his criminal celebrity, and Danica struggles to maintain a professional demeanor with the charismatic Foster as she begins to suspect that his activities may be linked to a cabal that idolizes the countess.

Danica’s life in London becomes increasingly complicated when Maria, a glamorous friend from Danica’s past, arrives to do archival work in the city. She claims to have discovered Báthory’s long-lost diaries and she slowly reveals to Danica the horrific, yet fascinating passages. As Danica’s career and her relationship with her artist-boyfriend, Henry, falters, Maria lures her into a complex social sphere. Unsure of whom to trust as her professional and personal lives become dangerously entwined, Danica must decide what she is willing to risk to satisfy her attraction to Báthory’s ominous legend.”


I can understand why one might compare it to the Historian. Both deal with historical figures and the drama surrounding them and the present time. But where the Historian excelled, Quiver kind of falls flat.

Quiver follows Danica a forensic psychologist who has been given the go ahead to interview Foster. Foster is a man obsessed with Countess Elizabeth Báthory, aka The Blood Countess. She was one of the most prolific serial killers. Stories have been written about her. Myths have been made. Bits of Dracula have been inspired by her. So Foster decides to take his obsession with her to the next level. How you ask? By killing a virgin girl of course.

He's captured and Danica now has job to evaluation his mental state while trying not to get charmed by him. You see, Danica is also somewhat enamoured by Báthory as well. I mean, why would someone of that status go out of her way to kill what is rumoured to be over 9000! 600 girls?

Now I know what you're thinking.

Danica sits down with the famed school girl killer. Alone in a room she conducts her interview trying to get Foster to repent and come to terms with what he’s done. He says what she wants to hear, but starts to ask questions of his own. When she asks why he did it, he mentions ‘Have you ever been so in love with someone that you would do anything for them?” Taken back by his confession of love, she asks who he’s talking about. He starts talking about Báthory and Danica’s eyes start to change. Foster notices that she’s as much into Báthory as him, starts to use this to his advantage. The mind games begin and Danica starts to fall lower and lower into the hole Foster digs for her. She starts obsessing even more over Báthory and loses her boyfriend, her friends, and almost her jobs due to it. At the end, the dark world of the Countess comes to life with Danica, while Foster, who remains behind bars, smiles as he hears about the series of murders spreading throughout the city. The book ends.

So does this happen?


No. Nope. Nada.

Despite how the synopsis sounds, there is hardly any interaction between Danica and Foster. She meets him once and nothing happens. She meets him again, nothing. The third time was a meeting only in passing. And the fourth didn’t really do both parties any favours.

Due to the little screen time he’s provided, we don’t really see anything to be at awed at when Foster is mentioned. So is he charismatic? No, in fact I don’t think you can even call him charming. He does spend one part complaining about his ginger hair and freckles, so I guess that gives him some depth…My only feeling for Foster was that he's just some sick Báthory otaku who thought it would be fun to kill in her honour. Usually, when it comes to books like these, you'd expect more from a killer. But no. He just didn't do anything for me.

Thankfully, the book isn't really about Foster. It's about Danica....and…um…ah! It’s about meeting her friend Maria. You see, Maria is a master manipulator, narcissistic, and kind of a sociopath. Someone you are drawn to, but wary of at the same time. Danica, who is pretty weak willed, knows all this, but still allows Maria to play puppeteer over her life. Why would someone do this you ask? Well, it’s quite simple really. Maria loves the Blood Countess as much as Danica and to top that all off, she claims to have found the rumoured Báthory's diaries. Diaries that Danica has been wanting to read for years!

It's through this that we get to see some of the more interesting and cruel aspects of the novel. The diaries provide a look into Báthory's mind as she recounting her time as a serial killer. Danica, at first, doesn’t trust that these are authentic. But she still can’t stop herself from reading it.

Flashbacks happen. Present stuff happens. Criminal behaviour is shown.

And near the end Danica figures out everything, which is great! She solves the crime and stops something terrible from happening. Sadly, for those reading, we figure out who is the mastermind behind this fairly early on. So instead of being surprised at what Danica uncovers, you’re left wondering how Danica could be so stupid.

It was frustrating and just made Danica look naïve. Almost like a little kid stepping into the world of adults. The kid isn’t going to be smart, but you expect this. With Danica, you wonder how she went through life with this level of absentmindedness. I mean, she’s a forensic psychologist. How? How….

Quiver did pick up near the middle of the novel and I did enjoy reading it after that. The ending was a bit quick though and left me wanting more from this resolution. I almost feel like the novel could have been a bit longer, though not Historian long. Instead, Danica finds out the truth by accident, things happen fairly quickly after that and it just ends. This was the most disappointing part for two reasons:

1. Once Danica finds the truth, the consequences of this could have been explored and made the villain actually look more like a villain. [And once Danica knows the truth I was hoping to see some mind games between her and Maria. (hide spoiler)]

2. Because there was so much potential for Quiver to be a fantastic novel and once it starts to develop some life, it just ends.

Should you read this? If you like reading about Elizabeth Bathory then maybe you should pick it up. The diaries really are the best part of this novel. And if you want to check out a new Canadian author, who I suspect we’ll be hearing more from, then definitely give this one a look. But if you are looking for a thriller, a mystery, and a compelling lead character, then you might want to take a pass on this.

2 stars out of 5

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